In October 2021, after 4 years as the COO of SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers), Dr. Chris Wilkie was chosen to serve as the next CEO for this nationally revered, member-driven nonprofit organization.
SHPE creates awareness, promotes access, and prepares Hispanic students and professionals to be STEM leaders. Its mission is to close the gap between Hispanics and STEM. Hispanics represent 18% of the 2019 U.S. workforce, but just over 8% of engineering occupations. There is a 10% gap. “And with STEM careers growing, the demand for educated and innovative talent is also increasing. Hispanics are poised and ready to fill this need. And SHPE is ready to make this happen today.” explains Dr. Wilkie.
Chris has spent his 20+ year career in leadership roles for the nonprofit and association sector that encompass various missions and audiences. These include communities that are multilingual, multicultural, socioeconomically challenged and isolated, underrepresented, victims of family violence, and those who struggle with substance abuse and/or mental health.
These varied experiences have contributed to Wilkie’s expertise in allyship, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), and implementation of transformational strategies.
In his current position as CEO, Chris remains committed to listening and learning from his colleagues, members, and peers, regardless of where they fall in the org chart. And then, he moves towards action.
“Allyship should be considered a verb.” Wilkie points out. “It’s critical that we make diversity and inclusion more than just this year's buzzwords. My goal is to leverage the experiences, opportunities, and support I’ve been given throughout my career to catapult transformational organizations, like SHPE, to their rightful place as nationally sought-after and respected change-makers.”
Chris strives to ensure that SHPE’s own business culture can be a model for anyone looking to move beyond talking the talk, and start walking the walk. And this philosophy is yielding the most remarkable results. Proof is in the outcomes. Revenue, event attendance, and membership have all grown to record numbers during Chris’ tenure with SHPE, both as COO and now, CEO.
“I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished during these last 5 years, but in this new role, my goal is to take SHPE to the next level.” Chris asserts. “We have been on a trajectory of financial growth and record membership numbers, but now is the time to elevate SHPE to a household name. If you are Hispanic or if you’re interested in STEM, SHPE should immediately come to mind as a resource and influencer. We want Hispanic talent to be present at every high-level technical conversation and diversity initiative.”
To achieve this, Dr. Wilkie is aiming to put SHPE members, their stories, their achievements, and their faces in the forefront of everything they do.” Our members are living examples of the success and passion and direct impact of SHPE. It’s time everyone becomes aware of this.” he says.
Take SHPE member Catherine Travino. Early in her academic career she struggled to establish her place in the engineering field. "The university I went to was huge, so I joined SHPE for the community and the Familia. Finding people that looked like me, that had the same passions and dreams as me was important because I was still finding myself." She graduated from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in 2020 with a BS in Computer Science. Today, Catherine is a Hardware Technical Specialist at IBM, and is still active in SHPE as a professional member with a passion for lifting up fellow Hispanic STEM students.
Or, most recently, Christian Reyna, who is nearing graduation from Case Western Reserve University this June with a biomedical engineering degree. He reflects on SHPE’s influence on his academic and professional trajectory, “Because of SHPE, I was able to meet people with similar interests and backgrounds who mentored me to be a better engineering student. I was able to get such an amazing medical device internship because of SHPE that when I told my parents that I got it, my mom started to cry tears of happiness and my dad hugged me very hard, the hardest he has ever hugged me. I may have also shed a tear or two.”
“And the stories go on and on.” Wilkie reflects. “For everyone of our 13,000 members, there is an equally compelling life experience that SHPE is so very proud and lucky to be a part of. I really feel like it is part of my duty as CEO to make these journeys and successes known.”
Chris looks forward to his next 5-years at SHPE’s helm. “It’s critical that my decision-making remains driven by our community and their needs, and that we consider the intersectionalities of their life experiences.” state Dr. Wilkie. “I won’t soon forget that the pulse SHPE has on the Hispanic community is our greatest competitive advantage. I will do whatever I can to continue to foster and uplift this.” IE
COO & CEO
SHPE changes lives by empowering the Hispanic community to realize its fullest potential and to impact the world through STEM awareness, access, support and development. SHPE's vision is a world where Hispanics are highly valued and influential as the leading innovators, scientists, mathematicians, and engineers.